In October, I hosted my 2nd tea for the Victorian Tea Society. I wanted to host a tea to pay homage to one of the biggest tea drinking countries in the world: India. I am also a big fan of Indian cuisine (especially South Indian cuisine), Bollywood, and Indian culture and religions. I thought it would be nice to introduce the ladies to something different.
Side note (11/18/16): The USPS just issued a postage stamp celebrating Diwali! These would have added the perfect touch to my invitations!
Since I was hosting the fall tea, it was the perfect timing for Diwali. Diwali is India’s biggest holiday, equal in importance to Christmas in the West and Chinese New Year in the far East. Celebrated over 5 days, it commemorates the Indian new year and is celebrated by Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs alike. The word, “Diwali,” means “rows of lights.” Millions of clay lanterns called diya are lit all over India to signal the Festival of Lights, one of the most festive days of the holiday. For my Diwali tea, I especially wanted to highlight the Festival of Lights and its theme of triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
In addition to lights, it is also traditional to create rangoli designs on the floor of living rooms, on doors, or just outside the front entrance for good luck and to repel evil spirits. A type of folk art, rangoli designs are traditionally created using rice, flower petals, sand, or flour.
I designed a peacock rangoli to welcome the VTS ladies. I took a few liberties with the rangoli and used construction paper instead of traditional organic materials. Also, instead of traditional diya which burn oil, I used tea lights that burned for 4 hours. Since I planned my tea for a 4-hour sitting, I knew exactly when it was time to wrap up the Tea when the candles started burning low. 😉 As we all know, tea-loving souls like us can really go on and on and not notice the time. Such is the delight of afternoon tea!
I had a lot of fun creating the menu. There were so many dishes I wanted to serve but I was mindful in choosing recipes that didn’t require too many ingredients since we all share the cooking. I have to remember that my spice and herbs collection is excessive and that not everyone is a spice/herb junkie like me. 🙂
I made origami lotus flowers for the place names which were held up by a stick of cinnamon. The lotus is a popular symbol in many cultures including Indian culture. It is also a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhist tradition so I thought it was a good choice for ringing in the new year.
Chana chaat salad
(adapted from various recipes by Lady MH)
1 cup dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon chat masala (optional, see recipe below or use store bought)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sliced cucumbers
6 cups mixed salad greens
Toss chickpeas with cumin seeds, cayenne, chat masala, sea salt and parsley/cilantro. Arrange cucumbers, tomatoes, and greens on a plate. Add chickpeas to top of salad and drizzle with vinaigrette.
(from Lisa’s Kitchen, yields 1/4 c.)
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 tsp. amchoor (dried mango) powder
1 1/2 tsp. black salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
Dry roast the cumin and fennel seeds in a small frying pan over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the cumin seeds darken a few shades. Toss in the asafoetida and stir in for a few moments. Remove from heat and grind in an electric coffee grinder until powdered. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to mix. Store in an airtight jar away from heat and light for up to 2 months.
Kesar Dry Fruit Shrikhand
(adapted from iDiva.com)
2 ½ cups plain yogurt (non-fat Greek yogurt OK)
1 tbsp warm milk or water
¼ tsp saffron threads
¼ tsp cardamom powder
¼ – ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (to taste)
2 tbsp raw pistachio nuts, skinned and chopped
Put yogurt in cheesecloth and hang it up for 4 to 5 hours to drain the whey. Soak saffron in milk or water for 30 minutes. Whisk the drained yogurt, sugar, saffron milk, and cardamom together till the mixture is smooth and creamy. Chill and serve with nuts and fresh chopped fruit.
As a fun activity, I painted henna designs for some of the ladies.
During this auspicious festival of lights, may the glow of joy, prosperity, and happiness illuminate your life and and your home. Wishing you a Happy Diwali! Namaste.
Om Asato Ma Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Lead us from untruth to truth
From darkness to light
From death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace